The recent images of children assaulting an innocent homeless man in his sleep around three o’clock in the morning are symptomatic of a larger and more serious problem facing the poor, marginalized and generally the indigenous people (tagata Samoa) today.
This is the heritage of colonial “lies” according to C.S. Lewis, which define Western materialism and positions of power in both state government and church as success; capitalism, the art of making money and accumulating wealth, as democracy; and the twisted notion that indigenous lands (eleele) are a “mea alofa mai le Atua,” and must be leased to the highest bidder so tagata Samoa may eventually be delivered from the bondage of economic and spiritual slavery.
The children involved in the beating are not the problem as state government officials and many in the media have argued.
They are symptoms of young successive generations of morally deprived and seriously troubled youth in a society that is clearly coming apart at the seems as a direct result of these “lies,” inherent in global capitalism, an idea recently denounced by the head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis.
In the not so distant past, were groups of young men who had assaulted and terrorized tourists and residents alike in and around downtown Apia until they were confronted by alii ma faipule (indigenous leaders) of Vaimoso; persistent violent confrontations at bus stops and school events among young students from both government and church schools forced PM Tuilaepa to temporarily close Avele College.
What makes the recent attack particularly disturbing is its brutality in the presumption of innocence given the youngsters’ age, the time in which the crime was committed, around 3:00 AM and the nature of a shared struggle on both sides of the incident as accused and victim.
This unprecedented increase in youth violence which cuts across generational lines paints a worrisome image of what one and tourists alike might expect in Samoa’s near future: festering violence running like an electric circuit as a direct result of economic success announced by PM Tuilaepa during his national address over the holiday season.
The assault also answers in part, a fundamental question recently put forth to the Samoa Observer by one struggling tagata Samoa who succinctly asked, “Who is going to pay for it?”
Global capitalism is the idea of national economic development which centers around the integrated international competition of rich countries, multinational corporations and wealthy individuals that constitute the 1% of the world’s richest over the vast wealth of human labor and natural resources in the hands of the world’s poor and their financially strapped countries.
In Samoa’s case, according to the 20007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the wealth of these natural resources rest within the jurisdiction of the indigenous government of Tumua ma Pule and not the state government of PM Tuilaepa and the Human Rights Protection Party.
And PM Tuilaepa has made no secrets about his disdain for the state government’s counterpart in the indigenous government of Tumua ma Pule.
For instance, the history of state government is littered with deliberate and calculated efforts to essentially strip tagata Samoa of these natural resources and delegitimize the indigenous government of Tumua ma Pule in an effort to seize total control and assume ownership of airspace, human labor and a wealth of natural resources from land to sea.
And leading the long list of natural resources being targeted are indigenous lands (eleele); sources of water supply in villages like Magiagi, Upolu and Sili, Savaii as well as family wells (vai ‘eli), natural pools (vai ta’ele), rivers/streams (vai tafe). The latest victims are family Sa’o and their Aiga over their human rights to bestow matai titles to the candidates of their own choosing.
The violence in PM Tuilaepa’s human rights, if one may say, “war of terror,” rests within the victim’s pain of being deprived, dispossessed and violently stripped of what is rightfully his or hers. And in the event, the indigenous is unwilling to give up or choose to fight for his rights, PM Tuilaepa can simply call on the militarized enforcement arm of state government.
This is in essence then becomes a very effective use of government approved violence against its own citizens and any government officials who happen to disagree with PM Tuilaepa.
This paradox appears to be illuminating in the current power struggle within the state government between Chief Justice Tiavaasu’e Falefatu Sapolu of the lands and titles courts and PM Tuilaepa of the legislative Fono a Faipule.
The unprovoked assault on the homeless man is unacceptable. But one should not fully pin the blame on the children or their parents for the kids’ presence on the streets. If anything, there are valuable lessons here that both the indigenous and government leaders can learn from.
Considering their desperate economic situation the children, and their parents are justified in their dignity, courage, and foresight in harnessing their survival strength on their own behalf and not be dependent on anyone else, be it, God or overseas family.
Samoa, in her true divisive colonial heritage, is a society that values the highly devout Christian, Western-educated, career person who dresses well, enjoys the comfort of an air-conditioned office and drives a car over the struggling indigenous poor survivor who is barely clothed, struggles day and night to make ends meet, walks barefooted and catches the bus.
For the children involved, it requires a thousand times the wisdom and strength to barely survive the harsh reality of desperation and disparity unaffected.
On the other hand, power addicts like corrupt government and church officials are themselves like children who never grew up. With the exception of a few, most of them are inspired and infatuated with power.
State officials, according to the Samoa Observer, are highly compensated, well housed and chauffeured in new expensive air conditioned cars paid for by taxes.
Similarly, their counterparts in church officials enjoy the luxury of all-paid-for living expenses, their children well educated, and elaborate homes all paid for by the indigenous faithful who, even with so little, always gives his best in tithes and alofa. As masters, they have been enriched and praised, glorified and sustained by power so comfortably well that they have become so addicted it’s becoming increasingly difficult for tagata Samoa to distinguish them from their counterparts in the illegal industry.